5 Lessons I Learned from The Founders

The inaugural cohort of The Founders’ Assembly

The inaugural cohort of The Founders’ Assembly

By Liana Bran, IHCC Program Director

At the end of last year the first cohort of IHCC’s The Founders’ Assembly came to a close. Over the past four months, six leaders came together to share how their teams, and more importantly, their ability to lead them, play a role in some of their biggest challenges. During this time, The Founders came together, “assembled,” if you will, to help each other explore these obstacles to growth more deeply and support one another to act on the tough decisions leaders are tasked to make every day.

I was fortunate enough to be part of these conversations and to see the “other side of leadership.” As a member of a team, it is easy to be quick to judge our leaders and point out their missteps. But leadership is tough; our culture teaches us it is something we should all want, should all aspire to, and yet, it can feel heavy. It can feel lonely. That makes connecting with and learning from other leaders all the more valuable.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in spite of the variety of organizations represented among The Founders, many of the themes at the heart of our discussions were the same. Together we uncovered some key learnings that will stay with me as I continue to define what leadership means for me:

1) Don’t accept the status quo. Make the hard choice.

For me, leadership means pushing what is possible, helping people live and work to their full potential and seeing the world as it can be, not as it is. Change can be uncomfortable, painful even, and fear of what that change means for us and others can paralyze us. During the course of our time together, several of The Founders made some tough decisions, but they all found that acting on them was the best thing they could have done for the organization and everyone involved.

2) Trust your gut (and the rest of your body). Listen to what it is telling you.

It surprised me how often The Founders already had a strong sense of what they had to do but did not trust themselves enough to act on it. For them, the value of peer support was in affirming what they already knew. This fact does not diminish the importance of making thoughtful, informed decisions, but as a leader, if your gut is telling you something needs to change, you should probably listen.

 3) When you let your commitments rather than your fears guide you, you are empowered to make decisions and lead with clarity.

Knowing whether you have made the right decision is easier when you understand your organizational and personal goals, values, and commitments and can see how your decisions align with them. These decisions feel so much better than decisions we make out of fear or to avoid some outcome.

 4) Make time to be strategic and “plan from the end.”

We can be so much more effective if we understand where we want to go and what we need to do each day to get there.  Otherwise, it is easy to get derailed in the day-to-day noise of life. To do this well, you need to constantly and intentionally make time to define your plan and make sure you stick with it (or adjust, as necessary).

 5) Feedback is a gift. Don’t wait to give your team feedback; rather, share it when it is most relevant and useful.

Few of us enjoy receiving or giving “constructive” criticism. It can feel deeply personal and attack the way we see ourselves (or the way we want to see ourselves). But getting feedback is how we learn and grow!  Creating a culture where feedback is welcomed may feel uncomfortable at first but is one of our most powerful tools to strengthening our organizations and the people within them.


Jaime di Paulo Named New President & CEO of IHCC

Jaime di Paulo, President & CEO

Jaime di Paulo, President & CEO

The Board of Directors of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) has appointed Jaime di Paulo as the new President and CEO. Mr. di Paulo, formerly the Executive Director of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce (LVCC) for the last five years, was selected by the IHCC Board following a rigorous and competitive search led by Noetic Search. 

Over his tenure at LVCC, the budget, membership and volunteer base all grew significantly. 

He also was able to build support and participation from elected officials and corporate leaders contributing to heightened visibility for LVCC and increased opportunities for business growth for members and non-members alike. These accomplishments were recognized in 2018, with LVCC being awarded Chamber of the Year by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“As the next CEO of IHCC, I have a moral obligation to be personally involved, not only to support business growth and develop our organization, but also to help our Hispanic communities prosper by using our influence proactively with the business community to make a sustainable difference,” said Jaime di Paulo. “In collaboration with the IHCC Board of Directors and staff, my job as leader is to start the fire that fuels the virtuous cycle of success here in Illinois and turn our work into a beacon of hope, creating and shaping the future. One of my key deliverables as I take office next January 22nd, is to ‘imagine’ the IHCC future.  With that in mind, we should then concentrate on validating our strategic choices to make them a reality. I am thrilled, excited, grateful and humbled all at the same time. Dreams do come true in Illinois!”

“I personally could not be more proud of the hard work my fellow board members displayed during this process,” said Board Chair, Juan Gaytan. “We selected Jaime for many reasons but, the key areas, were his understanding of the role of a statewide chamber of commerce, and his demonstrated success bringing government and private sector projects to the Latino business community. The IHCC board and staff is committed to strengthening our member and client businesses and help create a better world through entrepreneurship. With our new leadership we are excited about the future of IHCC.”

A welcome reception will be held at Carnivale on Wednesday, January 30th from 5:30pm - 7:30pm. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Announcing the 2018 IHCC Award Winners

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IHCC is excited to announce the seven individuals that will be recognized for their outstanding contributions to our community of entrepreneurs at the inaugural IHCC October Fiesta on Thursday, October 25th. Chosen for their demonstrated leadership and zest for entrepreneurship, the following awardees have impacted the Hispanic business community in Chicago by serving as mentors and being exemplary advocates for diverse business owners, among many other achievements.

The 2018 IHCC Award Winners are:

Small Business Champion | Pat Aguilar, President & Founder, FourStar Branding
An award-winning marketing professional , Pat is passionate about ensuring small businesses and non-profit organizations have access to top-tier branding services. She volunteers her time as a startup mentor at 1871 and provided services to IHCC members Ensemble Español and Interpreter Tap among others.

Corporate Champion | Lu Yarbrough, Nationwide
Nationwide’s commitment to helping diverse business owners succeed was exemplified through their support of the 2018 cohort of Coaching 4 Growth. Thanks in part to their generous support, Coaching 4 Growth helped 17 entrepreneurs create actionable business growth plans through the three month program.

Member of the Year | Art Caines, Managing Partner, Lexicon Networks
Since joining IHCC in 2017, Art has participated in Coaching 4 Growth, was a part of the third cohort of the Latinx Incubator and is currently in the inaugural class of The Founders’ Assembly. His dedication to continuous learning and being an active member of the IHCC community inspires the IHCC staff to continue to create impactful programming.

Partner of the Year | Sandi Llano, President, Sandi Llano & Associates
For more than 36 years, Sandi Llano has been an exemplary advocate for minority and diverse business owners, ensuring they have the tools and resources they need to grow and secure contracts on the city and government levels.

Legacy Award | Guillermo Garcia, CEO & Principal, GSG Consultants
Guillermo established GSG Consultants in 1992 and has led the transformation of the company into a multi-faceted consulting firm specializing in environmental engineering.  Guillermo has served on IHCC’s Board of Directors since 2007.

Leadership Award | Arabel Alva Rosales, President & CEO, AAR & Associates
Arabel is being recognized for her dedicated service to to the IHCC Board of Directors, serving in various capacities since 2002. She is the president and CEO of AAR & Associates, a full breadth technology firm and the co-founder of Latino Fashion Week.

Chairman’s Award | Gilbert Villegas, Alderman of the 36th Ward, City of Chicago
Since being elected in 2015, Alderman Villegas has introduced and passed legislation that focuses on providing opportunities for Minority, Women and Veteran Owned businesses. As Chairman of both the Latino and Veteran Caucuses, Alderman Villegas has worked to ensure that both communities are well-represented.

In lieu of a traditional awards gala, IHCC’s October Fiesta will bring Chicago’s diverse business community together for an exciting night of networking, entertainment and delicious bites. The event kicks off at 6:00pm at Carnivale, located at 702 W. Fulton Street, Chicago, IL. October Fiesta is sponsored by Wintrust Community Banks, Coca-Cola, and ComEd.

Individual tickets are $150 and can be purchased on the official event website.